I recently had a chance to sit down with the owner and creator of Buggs Fishing Lures, Heath Hippel, to talk about his lures and ask him a few questions about them. More information about Buggs can be found by visiting htpp://www.buggs-fishing-lures.com or you can order them at http://www.buggsfishingstore.com
Q: So Heath, Buggs are a pretty unique type of lure. Tell us a little about them.
A: Buggs are fishing lures that are tied like flies. They’re inspired by the most successful fly patterns, bringing the best fly-fishing ideas to lure fishermen. They’re tied with rabbit strips and other popular fly tying materials on custom jig heads.
Q: The jigheads used to tie your lures are slightly different than the traditional jig head most of us are use to. What’s so special about your jig head.
A: The jig heads I use are made to land hook point up and to sit on the bottom without tipping over. This comes in handy when fishing shallow water. In a pothole or on a sand or mud bottom, Buggs will sit there and look alive. The shape and design was inspired by popular bonefish jig heads. This is relevant because bonefish and redfish might as well be cousins. They both inhabit shallow flats and swim around in search of baitfish, crabs, shrimp, and marine worms. They have inferior mouths, meaning their mouths are on the undersides of their heads, making it easy for them to suck prey up from the bottom. In addition to sitting on the bottom, the heads fall more slowly than traditional jig heads. This comes in handy when you’re swimming them over shallow grass.
Q: With each of your lures, bunny fur has been your material of choice. What is it about the bunny fur that makes it so desirable to tie with?
A: The fur is part of it but a better description of the materials is rabbit strips. These are rabbit hides with the fur still on that has been tanned, dyed different colors, and cut into strips. Simply put, nothing moves in the water like rabbit strips. When the hide is wet, the strips absolutely come alive. That’s what makes the combination of the jig head and the rabbit strips so special. Buggs will sit there and look alive!
The other desirable factors are the durability, absorption, and variety. The hairs are anchored in the hide, and the hide is leather. They’re very durable, and oftentimes the last thing on the lure to wear out. Absorption factors in two ways: The hide must be wet, soaked all the way though, for the lure to look right. There are little air pockets trapped in the hide. The easiest way to get them out is to hold your Bugg under the water and squeeze the rabbit strips between your fingers. You’ll see the air bubbles come out and the lure will come alive. I also have customers who soak their Buggs in GULP juice or other water-soluble scent. Either way, when the hide is wet the lure weighs more and is easier to cast and absolutely looks alive.
Lastly, there are four different cuts of rabbit strips available and dozens of different colors. This gives me lots of options when designing lures.
Q: As far as small businesses go, Buggs Fishing Lures is exactly that. The company consists of you and your wife, along with a few workers that help tie the lures. What’s it like running your own small business?
A: It’s a constant balancing act between my Buggs business, my day job, my wife, our four kids, and other family activities like church. I absolutely love my Buggs business, but I have to prioritize every day and make sure I take care of my other responsibilities. It’s a little crazy, but every day is different and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Q: Like most things today, Buggs Lures can be ordered online from http://www.buggsfishingstore.com. However, many tackle retailers have started carrying them in their stores. How many different states are Buggs available in now?
A: Buggs are available in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and South Carolina. Here’s a link to our friends page that includes our retailers: http://www.buggs-fishing-lures.com/buggsfriends.html
Q: With eight different Buggs available for purchase, which one is your best seller and why do you think that is?
A: The Curl-Tail Jig is the best seller. It’s one of the original two offerings, so it’s been in my customer’s hands for the longest time. So history and longevity has a little to do with it. But the main reason it sells the best is a combination of effectiveness and versatility. It was designed for fishing saltwater flats, and has proven to be extremely effective for targeting redfish. It performs equally well when blind casting or sight casting, and in clear or muddy water. In addition to redfish, it works really well when targeting flounder. My customers also catch trout, drum, and the occasional sheepshead with it. In freshwater I get great feedback from bass fishermen who use it in light cover, for skipping docks, and sight casting. The tail can be changed out, and we tie a screw lock on the hook shank so your trailer won’t slip off.
Q: To your knowledge, how many different species of fish have been caught while using a Bugg? Also, tell us a few of the most popular fish anglers target with them.
A: I guess I jumped the gun a bit when I talked about all the fish that my customers have caught using a Curl-Tail Jig. But this gives me a chance to talk about the bonefish / light tackle jigs. Earlier I mentioned that popular bonefish jig heads inspired the Buggs original jig head. When I started selling Curl-Tail Jigs and Double Bunny Jigs several customers recognized the resemblance and took them on their bonefish trips. The trouble was that bonefish are generally smaller than redfish, and popular bonefish destinations like Mexico and Belize are home to bonefish in the 1-3 pound range. The hooks were too large, and they were missing fish. They returned from their trips and requested true bonefish jigs. So I designed my own bonefish jig heads with appropriately sized hooks and created four different bonefish jig patterns based on four of the most popular bonefish flies. My customers have caught bonefish, permit, tarpon, and several species of snapper on their bonefish trips. But we also know that fish up here eat small baitfish, shrimp, and crabs. The hooks on these jig heads are strong enough to use with light tackle. My customers along the Gulf Coast have caught redfish, flounder, trout, tarpon, and several species of snapper on these jigs as well.
A: I think there are three main reasons that Buggs are so effective for redfish. First is that Buggs land softly and are less likely to spook a redfish compared to other lures. Second is that Buggs look alive, even when sitting on the bottom. Third is that Buggs imitate what redfish eat and have the right profile.
Q: Can we expect anything new from Buggs Fishing Lures anytime soon that you are able to share with us?
A: I have several new lures in development. The first is a downsized version of a Curl-Tail Jig that is tied on a bonefish jig head. I’ve been tying this one for a while and I have lots of customers who are eager for it to go into full-scale production.
The second is a crab jig designed specifically for Permit. This is a newer idea, and borrows some of the techniques I used when designing the Beastie Bugg. I’m tying it as realistic as I can because permit are so picky. It’s a fun challenge, and I know that there will be lots of other species that will eat it as well.
Lastly, and this is the one I’m probably most excited about, is a shad imitation. I’m using a new tying technique I learned about that will make the lure dart back and forth on the retrieve. Plus, when it stops the lure falls slowly and evenly, just like a wounded or dying baitfish. I’ve already caught a five-pound bass on a prototype and a friend of mine has caught snook and redfish on another. I know it will be effective on speckled trout as well because it will have similar action to a hard bait, yet will look even more alive because of the rabbit. I’m hoping it will have crossover appeal to both saltwater and freshwater anglers.
The first place I announce the availability of new Buggs is my newsletter. The sign-up can be found on the right side of the home page. Look for the Email and Name boxes.
Q: We’ll make the last question a tough one. If you were fishing the upper Texas coast, and could only take three Buggs with you, which three would you pick and what colors would you go with?
A: ¼ oz. Curl-Tail Jig – Black Gold
This one would be tied on for sure. I’ve lost count of how many redfish I’ve caught on this jig. All kinds of conditions, different times of the year, and I’ve caught flounder and trout on it as well.
¼ oz. Beastie Bugg – Blue Crab
If I found tailing or slowly cruising reds this is what I’d throw. They love to eat blue crabs and this jig will sit there and look alive.
¼ oz. Hydra Bugg – Electric Chicken with a 4” Chartreuse Glitter Bugg Tail
I throw this in shallow water when it’s really muddy or when they’re feeding on mullet. The Hydra Bugg is a larger profile bait with double rattles and a jig head with a prominent eye. It makes an impression! I also like to throw this in marsh drains because it will get down deep faster. Redfish, trout, and flounder eat this Bugg.
Q: Anything to say before we go?
A: Let me say two things before I go. First, thank you Sonny Mills for taking the time to ask these questions, and thank you Darryl Barrs for publishing this article and helping me get the word out on Buggs. Second, let me tell the readers that I truly appreciate and value feedback from my customers. It makes my day when I get a picture, text, or email about a successful fishing trip with Buggs. And I also value their feedback because I only fish in my home waters and not even as much as I’d like. It helps me to know how people are using Buggs outside of the Upper Texas Coast. The front page of the online store contains my contact information (including my cell phone) and I hope people will use it!